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Thread: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

  1. #1

    Default History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    The First Tubular Flashlight was invented in 1898 by David Misell, a British subject who lived in New York City for a number of years.

    Misell had a number of electrical gadget patents to his credit. He patented a Signal Light with a wood case in April 1896 which looked very much like a hand lantern. This patent was a few months ahead of the Acme Bike Light but for some reason, it never got off the ground.

    While working for Dr. Ted Birdsall in 1896, Misell created a Portable Electric Lamp which was a hand lantern. It appeared to have potential, but that too was never a commercial success.

    In 1897 David Misell noticed the popularity and success of Acme Bicycle Light and redesigned his Signal Light patent and applied for a bicycle light patent on Oct. 8, 1897. It was patented on April 26, 1898. The Misell Bicycle Light held 3 batteries.

    In 1897 Conrad Hubert, eventual founder of the Ever Ready Company, was selling novelty Electric Necktie Pins in his novelty shop in New York City. These tiny electric pins must have stimulated his interest to acquire something more substantial in portable electric light and the David Misell Bicycle Light caught his attention.

    In the Fall of 1897, Conrad Hubert met with David Misell who had acquired the shop and inventory of Dr. Ted Birdsall following his untimely death in 1897. Misell was looking for someone to buy or finance his operation.

    While Hubert and Misell negotiated over the bicycle light, Misell mentioned that his assistant, Gustave F. Hitzelberger was “getting up” a tubular light. Hubert ended up buying the entire operation including the shop, Bicycle Light patent, and the rights to the tubular light that Misell and Hitzelberger were working on. Conrad Hubert chose to call it a flashlight.

    The tubular flashlight battery consisted of 3 cells 2-1/4” inches in length x 1-1/4 inches in diameter. This was 3/4 inches shorter than the 3 inches batteries used in the Misell Bicycle Light and in the Acme Electric Lamp. This shorter battery allowed the tubular flashlight to be short enough to be carried in the pocket, a favorable selling point to the 1898 consumer.

    Misell and Hitzelberger went to work for Hubert, making bicycle lights and flashlights. Hubert quickly realized the tremendous potential of the tubular pocket light and concentrated most of his energy promoting it.

    Misell had experience in acquiring patents and applied for a patent of the flashlight on March 12, 1898, and assigned it to Conrad Hubert and his new company, The American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co. After the application was accepted Hubert went into production and placed several flashlights in the hands of NYC policemen and the responses were very favorable.

    About the same time, in the Spring of 1898, Hubert reserved a space at the 3rd annual Electrical Show in Madison Square Garden, New York City. The show lasted the entire month of May in 1898 and the flashlight was a success.

    The flashlight patent design was approved on January 3, 1899. The flashlight patent itself was approved on January 10, 1899. The success of the Ever Ready Flashlight diminished the sales of Acme Electric Lamp Company products and the flashlight became the most popular form of portable electric light.

    Because the first flashlights were made in a small and modestly equipped shop they were made without threads, on either end. The lens was held by friction fit and the endcap was secured with a bayonet type fastener. After the success of the flashlight was assured, Hubert moved into larger quarters and began equipping the flashlight with threaded fittings on both ends.

    The endcap was blank, and remained without a trademark until 1901. The switch was a spring-loaded momentary contact type. It provided light when the ring was depressed. The ring contact switch was used until 1903 when the permanent type, Ever Ready Glove Catch switch was patented and placed into use.

    Contrary to many articles that have been written, the first flashlight was not made as a toy. Conrad Hubert never made a toy flashlight during the 16 years he owned or controlled the Ever Ready Company.

    Bill Utley flashlight1@cox.net

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* lightlover's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    flashlightbook,
    your authority is undeniable and your attention to detail is remarkable. You are a credit to the board.

    Respectfully yours,

    lightlover

  3. #3
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    What type of filament did the first torch have? I don't think that tungsten filaments were availablle until the 1910's, so one must assume that this torch had a carbon filsament?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Hello!
    Flashlightbook, I'd like to field this one, if I may.
    What I have learned from various books and searching the internet for lightbulb info is carbon was used almost exclusively for filaments up to around 1906. The metals Osmium, Platinum, and Tantalum were all tried before manufacturers settled on Tungsten. Carbon filaments had to be made relatively thick to withstand vibrations which meant they had pretty high resistance and wouldn't glow brightly (or at all) when used below about 3 volts. And with the very low-capacity batteries available back then and with carbon's high current needs, you had to "flash" the "light" on for short periods only. Tungsten was a the major turning point in flashlight design, allowing much smaller batteries that still provided satisfactory performance. I have a small pocket light that used a 3-AA battery pack (I think) and a carbon filament bulb. The bulb puts out about 2 candlepower's worth of light and gets pretty darn hot pretty darn fast. I have not left it on because I don't want it to "blow", but I have no doubt it is a "battery sucker". In its time it was tons better and safer than a candle, but we've come a long ways. As an aside, the British Navy specified carbon-filament bulbs for its Destroyers and Battleships up until the 1930s because the carbon withstood shocks from firing the big guns better than tungsten filaments of the day. I always thought of carbon as fragile or brittle--think charcoal. I guess I was wrong! Hope this sheds some light on the subject.
    Kirk

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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    fascinating...! Thanks Kirk!
    We really take our torches for granted nowadays with high brightness filament and LED lamps in a handy portable package. It's facinating to know the origin of the American word "flashlight" and the reason why they were so called. The early torches had to be pulsed on occasionally hence the word "flashlight". Like all words they stick around in some quarters of the planet, so long after torches were equipped with latching switches the word "flashlight" became a generic term in America. Here, the word never caught on, possibly bewcause it was a trade name, so we brits adopted the word "torch" to refer to a portable light. This is a continuance of parlance from its earlier sense when a torch was a burning firebrand plucked out of the fire to provide a handcarried light.
    As has been said before, the electric torch is far safer than its firebrand predecessor!
    It also fascinates me that our modern torches bear a lot of similarities to those of oveer 100 years ago! Other than the very recent LED and fluorescent torches, the most common design is a tubular shape with the bulb contained in one end in a parabolic reflector. And my chinese Tiger Head torch has a 3position lastch switch with an intermittent button which is activated on the middle setting... harking back to the days when torches were truly flash-lights!

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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Very interesting. I didn't know that the first flashlights are from the 19th century.
    Policemen were the first flashlight users...

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* luxlunatic's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Now that is an old thread!
    Quite interesting, thanks for digging this one out of the archives!
    What are you people......on DOPE!?!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Wow! Very fascinating. Great thread to revive.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quite interesting indeed. Love the history.

  10. #10
    *Flashaholic* Str8stroke's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Ironic, a old thread on old lights. Neat to see.

    I heard a story from a real old friend of mine. He retired a few years ago from the Rail Road after like 60 years! His dad & grand dad worked the Rail Road. He claims that one day when he was a kid his "poppy" AKA Grand Dad, came home with this new invention, and he was one of the first to have one in town. He claims the "whole town" came over one night to see it. It was a flashlight. Apparently the Rail Road was that important at that time and folks were mesmerized by the new flashlight invention.

    When he tell stories, it sounds like towns were built by Rail Roads. All the materials and supplies came via the Rail Road. Pretty amazing to think about.

    He has some very interesting RR stories. I keep telling him I want to come over and recored some of them. I find it amazing what we can learn from older folks.

  11. #11
    Flashaholic* lightlover's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by EMPOWERTORCH View Post
    ..... We really take our torches for granted nowadays ..... - 22nd May 2002
    [It’s been 4713 days (12 years, 10 months, 3 weeks, 5 days) since I last posted in this topic.]
    My Ho My - how things have changed - I think there have been more improvements in Hand-Held Illumination during the last 10 years than in the preceding 100.

    Once was:
    - when a 60lm E2e was just about the last word in EDC's. (Still a cute and great classic, but now mostly useful as a charming host)
    - if you were rich and dedicated, you could aspire to the amazing whole 500 SF lumens of an M6 burning out 6x CR123A in 20mins.

    Now, my Nitecore MH2C, at 800lm for ~2hrs, and rechargeable in-light by USB is a marvel to me.
    (I EDC it – don’t like the small lights that members seem to like best nowadays).

    EDIT - MH2C: a rather neglected light. /EDIT

    The great Bill Utley's book is really quite something, a truly magnificent work for a niche-interest field.

    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...ights-at-Last-!!

    “ … covers the history of flashlights from the earliest days up to about 1980. At that point, the coverage becomes less detailed, but still, some info is given up to 1990. (For instance, Lithium powered torches, Diving lights and LED's are not covered - that will all be in the eventual second volume.)”

    I emailed Bill to ask if him Volume 2 is due soon. Sadly, he hasn’t had the time to do more than research, and will not be compliling a new tome. I’m heartbroken – rarely has a minority-interest been granted the talents of such a first-class chronicler.

    Long ago, Mr Utley was kind enough to invite a group, me and a few others to visit his home/Museum.
    Antique lights don't hold much interest for me: those of the 50’s and 60’s more so – the vivid colours of the “new” plastics and the then recently discovered bright anodising.
    Bill’s collection is massive, comprehensive, definitive and many other conclusive positives.
    To present it all, the lights are all displayed with sensitivity and elegance in beautiful delicate cabinets.
    The Smithsonian’s curator of Industrial design would be jealous.
    Last edited by lightlover; 04-16-2015 at 10:39 AM. Reason: Always
    "...[they] Carry Torches And Pass Them One To Another" Socrates ~360 BCE

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  12. #12

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by lightlover View Post
    [It’s been 4713 days (12 years, 10 months, 3 weeks, 5 days) since I last posted in this topic.]
    My Ho My - how things have changed - I think there have been more improvements in Hand-Held Illumination during the last 10 years than in the preceding 100.

    Once was:
    - when a 60lm E2e was just about the last word in EDC's. (Still a cute and great classic, but now mostly useful as a charming host)
    - if you were rich and dedicated, you could aspire to the amazing whole 500 SF lumens of an M6 burning out 6x CR123A in 20mins.

    Now, my Nitecore MH2C, at 800lm for ~2hrs, and rechargeable in-light by USB is a marvel to me.
    (I EDC it – don’t like the small lights that members seem to like best nowadays).

    EDIT - MH2C: a rather neglected light. /EDIT

    The great Bill Utley's book is really quite something, a truly magnificent work for a niche-interest field.

    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...ights-at-Last-!!

    “ … covers the history of flashlights from the earliest days up to about 1980. At that point, the coverage becomes less detailed, but still, some info is given up to 1990. (For instance, Lithium powered torches, Diving lights and LED's are not covered - that will all be in the eventual second volume.)”

    I emailed Bill to ask if him Volume 2 is due soon. Sadly, he hasn’t had the time to do more than research, and will not be compliling a new tome. I’m heartbroken – rarely has a minority-interest been granted the talents of such a first-class chronicler.

    Long ago, Mr Utley was kind enough to invite a group, me and a few others to visit his home/Museum.
    Antique lights don't hold much interest for me: those of the 50’s and 60’s more so – the vivid colours of the “new” plastics and the then recently discovered bright anodising.
    Bill’s collection is massive, comprehensive, definitive and many other conclusive positives.
    To present it all, the lights are all displayed with sensitivity and elegance in beautiful delicate cabinets.
    The Smithsonian’s curator of Industrial design would be jealous.
    At least it wasn't me who bump'd it 4713 days later.(this time) lol

    Just sent an email to Bill asking if by chance any more are available. (Hoping maybe he has a box somewhere with leftover copies)
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-16-2016 at 07:36 AM.
    John 3:16
    "I'm still a Toys R Us kid" -PK

  13. #13
    Flashaholic* lightlover's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    bykfixer,

    The great Sir Bill Utley - what a Brilliant Man!

    I am not worthy ...
    I'll never forget my (our) meeting - the displays I saw were breathtaking.

    Sir Bill's decision to concentrate on other writings is a massive loss to LightWorld ...

    "rarely has a minority-interest been granted the talents of such a first-class chronicler"
    "...[they] Carry Torches And Pass Them One To Another" Socrates ~360 BCE

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  14. #14

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Have you also had the pleasure of hanging out with the likes of Donald Keller or perhaps Mr. Edison?

    Edit: Heard back from Mr. Utley. He still has some for sale.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-16-2016 at 07:37 AM.
    John 3:16
    "I'm still a Toys R Us kid" -PK

  15. #15
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by lightlover View Post
    [It’s been 4713 days (12 years, 10 months, 3 weeks, 5 days) since I last posted in this topic.]
    My Ho My - how things have changed - I think there have been more improvements in Hand-Held Illumination during the last 10 years than in the preceding 100.

    Once was:
    - when a 60lm E2e was just about the last word in EDC's. (Still a cute and great classic, but now mostly useful as a charming host)
    - if you were rich and dedicated, you could aspire to the amazing whole 500 SF lumens of an M6 burning out 6x CR123A in 20mins.

    Now, my Nitecore MH2C, at 800lm for ~2hrs, and rechargeable in-light by USB is a marvel to me.
    (I EDC it – don’t like the small lights that members seem to like best nowadays).

    EDIT - MH2C: a rather neglected light. /EDIT

    The great Bill Utley's book is really quite something, a truly magnificent work for a niche-interest field.

    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...ights-at-Last-!!

    “ … covers the history of flashlights from the earliest days up to about 1980. At that point, the coverage becomes less detailed, but still, some info is given up to 1990. (For instance, Lithium powered torches, Diving lights and LED's are not covered - that will all be in the eventual second volume.)”

    I emailed Bill to ask if him Volume 2 is due soon. Sadly, he hasn’t had the time to do more than research, and will not be compliling a new tome. I’m heartbroken – rarely has a minority-interest been granted the talents of such a first-class chronicler.

    Long ago, Mr Utley was kind enough to invite a group, me and a few others to visit his home/Museum.
    Antique lights don't hold much interest for me: those of the 50’s and 60’s more so – the vivid colours of the “new” plastics and the then recently discovered bright anodising.
    Bill’s collection is massive, comprehensive, definitive and many other conclusive positives.
    To present it all, the lights are all displayed with sensitivity and elegance in beautiful delicate cabinets.
    The Smithsonian’s curator of Industrial design would be jealous.
    Wow, welcome back and it is indeed an honor to read posts from such historically important personages in the flashlight field.
    Last edited by magellan; 04-16-2016 at 12:50 PM.
    It is better to buy a beautiful, expensive, custom flashlight than to curse the darkness.

  16. #16
    Flashaholic* lightlover's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by bykfixer View Post
    Have you also had the pleasure of hanging out with the likes of Donald Keller or perhaps Mr. Edison? ............
    bykfixer,

    I ACTUALLY DID meet LightWorld Hero Mr Don Keller @ SHOT 2003!

    Don Keller is a charismatic, impressive man. (Somehow: I guessed / perceived that he was at one time a Sherriff - spooky, no? It just showed in his style).
    He possessed an aura of authority, dignity and accomplishment.
    I was so pleased to spend a few minutes chatting to a person who is a part of flashlight history.

    [ Mr Edison - who he? (Joke) ]


    magellan,
    I read in another topic that you're buying Sir Billy Utleys' incomparable book - you'll love it!
    "...[they] Carry Torches And Pass Them One To Another" Socrates ~360 BCE

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  17. #17

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    So did you find out why Mr. Keller left Kel-Lite about the time things were taking off? I read he left in about 72, some 3 years into the business.

    My collection needs at least one from the 70's.

    And surprisingly I have zero Ever Ready products. None. That too must change.
    John 3:16
    "I'm still a Toys R Us kid" -PK

  18. #18
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by lightlover View Post
    bykfixer,

    I ACTUALLY DID meet LightWorld Hero Mr Don Keller @ SHOT 2003!

    Don Keller is a charismatic, impressive man. (Somehow: I guessed / perceived that he was at one time a Sherriff - spooky, no? It just showed in his style).
    He possessed an aura of authority, dignity and accomplishment.
    I was so pleased to spend a few minutes chatting to a person who is a part of flashlight history.

    [ Mr Edison - who he? (Joke) ]


    magellan,
    I read in another topic that you're buying Sir Billy Utleys' incomparable book - you'll love it!
    Yes, I can hardly wait to get it. Truly an important and delightful book for the flashaholic!
    It is better to buy a beautiful, expensive, custom flashlight than to curse the darkness.

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* lightlover's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    donkeller7 is Don's CPF member ID.

    Try this to start:
    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...ITE-INDUSTRIES
    "...[they] Carry Torches And Pass Them One To Another" Socrates ~360 BCE

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  20. #20

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Believe it or not, reading that thread lead me to finding this thread.

    I was searching for a Kel-Lite collection thread or something, I forget. (70's were great but I sure am paying a price now.)

    It was later when I realized I've nothing made by Ever Ready.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-16-2016 at 04:30 PM.
    John 3:16
    "I'm still a Toys R Us kid" -PK

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* lightlover's Avatar
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    bykfixer,
    I have faith in you ...

    Ever Ready - pshaw!

    (Someday, we will compare our collections ...)
    "...[they] Carry Torches And Pass Them One To Another" Socrates ~360 BCE

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  22. #22

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    That Ever Ready with the lanyard ring is a really handsome light even by today's standards. I wonder what kind of bulb it contained?

  23. #23

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by lightlover View Post
    bykfixer,
    I have faith in you ...

    Ever Ready - pshaw!

    (Someday, we will compare our collections ...)
    EverReady on the way....


    The 2 cell Commander. Best I can tell it's a circa 1976 light.
    I probably used one (or similar) while playing hide & seek on summer nights.

    Broke my 1 light per month rule for this one.

    Someday...a Kel-Lite. But those folks at the big E are asking some mighty high prices.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-17-2016 at 06:19 PM.
    John 3:16
    "I'm still a Toys R Us kid" -PK

  24. #24
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    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    I remember having one of those. Very cool.
    It is better to buy a beautiful, expensive, custom flashlight than to curse the darkness.

  25. #25

    Default Re: History of the First Tubular Flashlight

    I did not know Energizer and Ever Ready are one these days... owned by animal food giant Ralston Purina.
    Yup, apparently Ever Ready products are the 'budget' Energizer products.

    Also car parts chain Pep Boys batteries are made by Ever Ready who still has a US based battery making facility.

    These days it seems (according to energizer/ever ready) Ever Ready batteries are geared towards low draw items like clocks and calculators. Energizers towards cameras and flashlights. Energizer flashlights are aimed at the too cheap to buy a Maglite crowd. Every Readys at folks too cheap to buy an Energizer.

    Energizer has put out some stuff to compete with Rayovac like 'hard case' lights and some pretty dawg gone nice shiney alluminums to compete with the chinese jewelry light crowd.

    ^^ 'cept for reverse clicky these are pretty sweet.

    I'd hope to see Ever Ready do some retro stuff and at least try to get some respect back instead of focusing on $2.95 throw aways...

    Perhaps some Conrad Hubert reproductions?
    Last edited by bykfixer; 06-05-2016 at 05:55 PM.
    John 3:16
    "I'm still a Toys R Us kid" -PK

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